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Northcentral Pennsylvania congressman announces retirement
Congressman Announc 5127221
Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa. gestures during an interview in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington in this Jan. 30, 2007 file photo. Peterson, a vocal opponent of interstate tolling and leading congressional advocate for rural America, is expected to announce his retirement. - photo by Associated Press
    WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. John Peterson, a vocal opponent of interstate tolling and leading congressional advocate for rural America, announced his retirement on Thursday.
    Peterson, 69, a Pennsylvania Republican and former grocery store owner, has spent 11 years in Congress. He represents State College and Punxsutawney, along with a wide swath of mountainous counties.
    Peterson said in a statement released by his office that he desires to spend more time with his family in Pleasantville. He said his retirement is effective at the end of his current term.
    ‘‘I will not be leaving Pennsylvania or my community, and I intend to continue to fight for public policies that promote jobs, wise use of our natural resources, and quality of life issues for America’s rural population,’’ Peterson said.
    In recent months Peterson has criticized a plan passed in July by state lawmakers that would place tollbooths on I-80, which bisects his district. The tolls would help pay for highway, bridge and mass transit projects in Pennsylvania. Peterson said the plan unfairly burdens rural residents.
    Peterson, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, helped secure hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for abandoned mine land cleanup in Pennsylvania and other coal mining states. As co-chairman of the congressional rural caucus, he has advocated for improved telecommunications outside U.S. cities and for more government dollars to rural hospitals. But he’s also been active on issues that extend outside his district such as pushing for more development of offshore natural gas resources.
    He spent seven years on the Pleasantville Borough Council and nearly 20 years in the Pennsylvania Legislature before his election to the House in 1996.
    Peterson handily won his congressional races with at least 60 percent of the vote. The district is heavily Republican.
    He has been married to his wife, Sandy, for more than 30 years.
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